Syracuse, NY – Jah’Theel Selmon still remembers the blank eyes of the man holding a gun to his face at the Syracuse bus / train station.
What’s your problem, remembers the security guard asking the man who just mumbled something back.
Suddenly the man pointed his gun at the guard’s stomach and fired.
“It was like heat …” he said. “I didn’t even want to look down, I was too scared.”
Selmon is a security guard at the Syracuse Regional Transportation Center who 19 months ago helped save a father and his three children by getting them into a break room when a man started shooting with a gun inside the station.
The gunman, Andrew Booker, shot Selmon in the stomach and another man in the leg. People waiting for buses and trains and employees rushed to take cover when he opened fire on this Sunday in May 2020. His gun got stuck several times, so he couldn’t shoot that four times, a prosecutor said.
Booker, 32, of Massachusetts, is due today to 18 years in state prison. He pleaded guilty to attempted murder in October.
Selmon, 30, Nottingham High School graduate, spoke to Syracuse.com recently | The Post-Standard to talk about what happened that day.
It was a routine night for Selmon who arrived at midnight to relieve another guard. He walked around the station every 45 minutes to make sure everything was okay, checking passengers and the building.
Booker was traveling from Massachusetts to Ohio, but the bus he was supposed to take was delayed for mechanical reasons.
Selmon said he saw Booker at one point laughing, talking with other people in the waiting room. Booker spoke briefly with the guard, asking Selmon where he was from.
Selmon said he found Booker disturbing.
“I didn’t want to have too much of a conversation because I didn’t like the way his eyes were,” he said. “I wondered why was he acting like that to me?” And I should have taken that as a sign.
A few minutes later, Selmon heard noises that he said he will never forget.
“I hear the ‘pat pat pat’, you can hear the echo of the gunshots,” he said. “I wasn’t even too sure it was a shot at first, but then I realized…. I see everyone running.
A father, Antoine Allen, from Michigan, ran towards him with three children, all under 5 years old.
Can you hide me and my children somewhere? Selmon remembers the father asked.
They were near a bus driver’s rest room, but Selmon had to type in a code to enter the locked room. In the chaos, he feared he would not get the correct code.
He got it right the first time and the door opened. The whole family rushed into the room.
With the father and children in the room, Selmon turned to shut the door, but Booker was there.
“He had a blank stare, it’s like looking at Michael Myers,” Selmon said.
Booker raised the gun to Selmon’s face, then shot him in the stomach. said Selmon. The force of the gunshot pushed Selmon back into the room and Booker accompanied him.
In one corner was the family. In another corner, Selmon and Booker fought over Booker’s gun, the guard said.
He said he was bleeding and felt weaker as they fought, but he wanted to keep the gun away from Booker.
Selmon broke free and ran out the back door, expecting Booker to chase after him. Instead, Booker returned to the main part of the bus / train station.
Selmon said he was limping outside the building.
“I never looked down on my injury,” he said. “I just put the pressure on it. I didn’t want to be in shock.
Selmon, who had a gun on him, said he suddenly had a new fear: would people think he was the shooter?
“What if one of them had a full portage (firearms license) and thought I was the shooter and killed me?” ” he said. “I could have easily been shot by the police if they had seen me. “
Selmon said he limped from bus to bus, dodging Booker’s shots. He tried to figure out how much ammo was left in Booker. Starting to feel weak, he said his goal was to get closer to the building in case he passed out.
“I told myself if I was to die, I would take this guy with me,” he said.
Selmon had his own gun with him that day, which is against company policy. He never fired his gun because he said he was worried about getting into trouble, hitting an innocent person, or irritating Booker further.
Selmon said he put a bullet in the bedroom, ready to try to stop Booker, but police arrived.
“The police came through the other door at the right time,” Selmon said.
He said he pocketed his gun and lay on the ground with his hands in the air. He explained what had happened and gave his gun to the police. Selmon initially said he was treated as a suspect rather than a victim.
Many people have called Selmon a hero for his actions that day.
“His actions were selfless and incredibly heroic and definitely saved lives,” District Attorney William Fitzpatrick told Syracuse.com | The Post-Standard the day after filming. “God bless him.”
Today, Selmon has a small circular scar that interrupts a sprawling tattoo on his chest and stomach. A longer scar lower on his stomach shows where doctors opened it to remove the bullet, he said.
Fortunately, he said none of his organs were hit by the bullet.
Selmon said he is still not fully recovered.
He goes to a chiropractor twice a week and says he takes a lot of medication. He said that before he was shot he was an avid gym enthusiast. He played basketball with friends, cartwheels and lifted weights.
“I can’t go up the stairs, I can’t run, I can’t do anything,” said Selmon.
It wasn’t just his physical body that was damaged that day, he said.
“I am not myself at all. This guy has changed my life physically, emotionally and mentally, ”said Selmon.
At night, Selmon says he often relives it all.
“Straightforward nightmares, like it’s spinning, like I can hear the sounds, wake up, look him in the face,” he said. “Oh that’s disgusting, the way it feels.”
Selmon is still working at the train / bus station but with a lighter service. He wants bus and train stations to be secure like airports with metal detectors and searches of passengers.
In court today, Selmon plans to issue a victim impact statement. He said he wrote several pages in a notebook about what he intended to say.
His message, he said, will not be forgiveness. He is not satisfied with the expected prison sentence.
“Like really? 18?” Said Selmon. “Is that all he gets for shooting two people?”
Writer Rylee Kirk covers breaking news, crime and public safety. A tip, a story idea, a question or a comment? Contact her at 315-396-5961, on twitter @kirk_rylee, or firstname.lastname@example.org.